Forest minister's home district too waits for 'foot soldiers'

The lower rung personnel aka foot soldiers are still awaited in good numbers in the Forest Department in Dakshina Kannada.

A total of 72 posts are vacant and the available 193 personnel including forest guards, watchers and deputy range forest officers (DRFO) have to guard 1.25 lakh hectares of territorial forest in the district.

The district assumes significance for being the home district of B Ramanath Rai, Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment, also the district in-charge minister. Following the death of forest guard Murigeppa Tammannagol while dousing fire at Kalkere range of Bandipur forest in Mysuru district, there is a renewed cry for strengthening foot soldiers in the Department.

According to the available information, of the sanctioned 265 posts, 113 posts of forest guards are filled and 40 vacant, followed by 12 vacant posts of watchers against 32 sanctioned and 20 vacant posts of DRFOs against 80 sanctioned. At the top level, eight posts of range forest officers (RFOs), three of ACF and one deputy conservator of forest (DCF) have been filled.

Assistant Conservator of Forest (Mangaluru sub-division) A Sridhar Nayak said on Tuesday, “The recruitment is underway, with 40 guards already selected. They will be posted for training, which may take one year for completion, before taking over the mantle.”

The officer, who claimed ignorance over the demand for additional men for the particular district pending before the government, said the earlier number of posts may have been quashed as most jobs were given a go by irrespective of departments. “The existing staff are doing their best to tackle emergency, with the procurement of 16 ‘blower’ equipment that comes in handy during forest fire. More such equipment will be added in future,” Nayak said.

In addition to this, the staff will get alerts on dedicated WhatsApp groups on their cellphones, linked to department website. The information will be followed up with the help of GPS to identify the exact spot, where a ready six-member team will be rushed to.

Barring 10 incidents of fire reported in Belthangady (six cases) and Uppinangady (four cases) till now, no major fire mishaps have been reported, the officer added.

The territorial forest in the district is spread across Bantwal, Belthangady, Uppinangady, Puttur, Panja, Subrahmanya and Sullia ranges, coming under Puttur, Sullia and Mangaluru sub-divisions.
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